Reducing the cost of health care benefits, or at least curbing cost increases, has been an ongoing concern for employers for years. While medical cost increases are slowing, high health care costs are still a major problem for many employers. And the drive to encourage employees to live healthier lives, in an effort to reduce costs over the long-term, can be a painfully slow process.
To implement a benefits management program that successfully addresses these and other benefits issues takes innovation, expertise and tenacity. Such attributes are on full display in the award-winning benefits managers that we profile in this issue.
Dianne L. Howard, director of risk and benefits management at the School District of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach, Florida, hasn't just slowed her organization's health care cost increases; she's secured significant year-over-year cost decreases with further reductions expected.
She negotiated to secure millions of dollars in prescription drug rebates for the school district rather than let the rebates go to its insurer, analyzed claims data to make sure deductibles and coinsurance requirements were applied correctly and used several strategies to change employees' behavior and improve their health.
By taking a diverse strategy and questioning conventional approaches to benefits management, Ms. Howard has built a better program for the district and for its employees. Recognizing her success, Ms. Howard has been selected by an independent panel of judges as the Business Insurance 2014 Benefit Manager of the YearŽ.
Sarah Staggs, head of benefits for Zurich North America, also has successfully addressed health care costs and taken a creative approach to solving benefits problems.
Among her successes, Ms. Staggs fostered a grassroots wellness campaign for employees, introduced a consumer-driven health plan that allowed employees to choose coverage levels, boosted participation in the company's 401(k) plan and introduced a risk-reduction strategy for its pension plan.
For her achievements, Ms. Staggs has been named to the 2014 Benefit Management Honor RollŽ.
We congratulate both our honorees for their achievements. We hope you enjoy learning more about them and their programs in the profiles that begin on page 13.